By: Patricia Ann Talley, MBA and Editor
Over the past six decades, the tourism industry has expanded and diversified to become one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world. And tourism can help solve some of the world’s problems, like climate change, poverty reduction, preserving eco systems and helping to sustain our planet. Tourism is one of the world’s most important industries and creates millions of businesses and jobs.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, international tourist arrivals have increased from 25 million globally in 1950, to 278 million in 1980, 527 million in 1995, and 1133 million in 2014. Likewise, international tourism receipts earned by destinations worldwide have surged from US$ 2 billion in 1950 to US$ 104 billion in 1980, US$ 415 billion in 1995 and US$ 1245 billion in 2014.
Travelers visit beaches, mountains, national parks, historic sites, festivals, museums, worship centers, and countless other attractions. Travels buy local souvenirs, products and goods. All purchases boost the local economy.
The tourism industry helps to address challenges like climate change. Unlike fossil fuel industries, that often resist efforts to address climate change, the tourism industry realizes that the environment and a sustainable planet are crucial to their business. Tourism destinations and resorts have a high interest to keep their beaches and environments clean and pristine so as to attract visitors.
Elimination of Poverty
Tourism also helps to eliminate poverty. The potential of tourism in contributing to lift people out of poverty is increasingly acknowledged and is supported by the growing relevance of the sector for poor countries. According to the WTO, tourism is one of the top three sources of export earnings for nearly half of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the world and is a priority sector for their further integration in the global economy.
Empowerment of Women
Women play an important role in the tourism industry. Back in 2010, the United Nations World Tourism Organization and UN Women (formerly UNIFEM) collaborated to report on women’s active participation in the tourism industry worldwide. This report found that much of the contribution of women in the tourism industry is invisible. Many women work behind the scenes in office jobs, in the kitchens, or in other support jobs.
Gender equality has proven to be profitable in the business world in general. This fact opens up new and interesting opportunities in the tourism sector, where the enormous potential of women has not been fully harnessed. Women with higher levels of training and greater opportunities to develop their businesses contribute to exponential quality improvements in all areas of tourism activity. With training, and given the opportunity, tourism can help women to lift themselves, their families and their communities out of poverty.
How Do You “Sustain” Tourism?
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), a global leader in promoting sustainable tourism, has created a set of criteria to help come to a common understanding of “sustainable” tourism, which are the minimum that any tourism business should aspire to reach. The GSTC’s criteria also serve to help consumers identify sound sustainable tourism programs and businesses. The GSTC Criteria for Sustainable Tourism are organized around four main themes:
- Effective sustainability planning
- Maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community
- Enhancing cultural heritage
- Reducing negative impacts to the environment
If implemented on a large scale throughout the tourism industry, these criteria will go a long way toward solving some of the world’s most important challenges. Business is encouraged to embrace these goals. Tourists are encouraged to travel to destinations and to stay in hotels that promote sustainable tourism.
The tourism industry is vital to the world’s economy, it provides social and economic benefits for the local community, it enhances cultural exchange, and it is good for the environment!
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